AEFP 45th Annual Conference

Toward a Meaningful Impact through Research, Policy & Practice

March 19-21, 2020

Do Charter Schools Outspend Public Schools Online? Evidence from Texas

Joshua Childs, The University of Texas at Austin,

As open enrollment charter schools have continued to grow in Texas, researchers and policymakers have continued to question how these charter schools spend public taxpayer dollars. Although extant research has addressed how charter schools spend money to recruit teachers, complete capital projects, and hire school leaders, no studies have examined how charter school districts compete with traditional public school districts online to drive traffic and interest in their schools. Using Texas Education Agency and SEMrush data from the 2018-2019 school year, this study compares charter school district and traditional public school district web metrics and online spending to learn more about how charter schools continue to open and drive enrollment. Results suggest that, when compared to traditional public school districts in Texas, charter school districts in Texas are less web popular by keyword search (p



One alternative to using region might be to use demographics of the districts, or of the potential applicants if charter. Could use a geographic definition of market for the charters - districts within a certain distance of the charter. It would be interesting to see if demogrpahics matter, and how the role of demographics interacts with charter status..

This is a really interesting idea and I love the novel data you've collected to study this question. That takes a lot of work! I'm sure you've already done this, but you might want to look at some of the work out of New Orleans by Huriya Jabbar as well as some of her newer work and that of others -- maybe check out Looking at Jabbar's work in particular might help give you some ideas about where to take this work next. One concrete next step might be to consider the association between competition and the charter-online spending relationship. Do charters in choice-rich environments spend particularly more on generating online traffic? And/or do charters that do/do not have waitlists spend less/more? I'm so looking forward to seeing where this goes next!

This is an interesting area of research. I enjoyed your other poster as well, and again wish I could ask questions in person. I particularly would like to hear more about how some of these factors are measured--organic keywords, etc. Do you scale how much traffic we would expect based on, say, the number of people we would realistically expect the district schools vs. charter districts to serve? (I'm assuming--partly based on your other poster with campus numbers--that TPS districts serve more students, and so if we assume some amount of web traffic would come from parents looking up information on their current schools, that might account for some significant part of the greater web traffic.) I'm also curious about the implications you draw from your research. Your abstract sort of presents some of the findings as in tension--TPS district traffic is higher, *yet* charters spend more money, but I would think that spending more money would be a logical response to a lack of immediate "name recognition" that the local TPS district might have.

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